Thank You, Ethiopian Airlines

The day when I finally left Lusaka, I first learnt one important lesson: It might be true that you should not enter a car with unknown men inside, yet the same holds for women. Before going to the airport, I wanted to go to the nearby mall (10 minutes walking distance) and 3 women kindly offered to drop me there, because they were anyway leaving the guest-house’s bar right away. Knowing the directions, I accepted and actually they did drive me to the mall via the expected route. But during the drive, I realized that they were already a little drunk (it was 10 in the morning ….) and they started making obvious approaches to me, putting their both “arguments” in front. This phenomenon is quite common in Africa – white men often are an attractive goal for black women, and in fact many men take the advantage of these easy girls, especially in the new region I recently arrived to. For myself, in such situations I usually adopt the name Bertrand Delanoë and with that his sexual orientation!

Despite this slightly strange event, I arrived to Lusaka Airport on time and got my flight without any problems. As planned, we landed in Addis Ababa on the evening and I was ready to sleep at the airport because the following flight to my final destination was scheduled on the next morning. But a friendly officer from Ethiopian Airlines had a nice surprise for me: the company would offer me a hotel voucher to spend the night and have dinner and breakfast on their expenses. So I received a transit visa, I was transferred to the city and reached probably one of the most luxurious hotels of my whole trip so far. While all other guests had to sleep in “normal” rooms on the middle floors, without any reason I was given the key to the royal suite on the last floor, with a beautiful view over Addis by night. I guess that they had read our blog entries about Ethiopia and thought that they had something to compensate. Continue reading

Remarks on Zambia and Africa

Usually, at the end of every country, we try to sum up our impressions in a general review. In Zambia we only stayed for 8 days so it would be too bold to do the same here. Instead, we decide to share some thoughts. Given the short time, these should be taken with a grain of salt.

Zambians advertise their country as “The Real Africa”. Probably this goes together with the experiences many expats and volunteers make here. But for tourists, there is hardly any other land where it is so difficult to discover the real life. Zambia is extremely divided into rich and poor. A minority has already made their way into the 21st century and their lives do not differ much from the ones anywhere in the western world. Yet the majority continues to live like in the past centuries, either on the countryside or they came to the city and form some kind of modern proletariat. While travelling you will almost always deal with the First World in Zambia. There is nearly no way to travel like we did in Tanzania. Guest-houses for locals are hard to find and often located in areas that are not safe for whites (at least they say so). Public transport is limited to Livingstone and the Copperbelt, most other points of interest are not covered. So most of the time you end up in a bubble. The guests of your hostel are all white, the service has western standards and western prices, you do not have contact to locals (except the cashier in the supermarket) and it all feels a bit unreal and artificial.

Believe it or not, Zambia will be the most expensive country of the whole trip, even without the pricey activities at the Victoria Falls. At least, travelling here was very comfortable. Admittedly we just stayed at the main tourist spots, but this was also because it is almost impossible to reach the other regions. Of course, you can hire a 4-wheels drive and go camping, but most people who can afford that do pitch their tent in upper-class lodges. Again, we would not consider this to be “The Real Africa”.

Still, we are happy we came here and saw another different face of Africa. We never had thought that each country on the Black Continent would be so distinct. This distinctness is even more astonishing when considering the way people regard themselves. Africans first identify with the whole continent before putting their specific nation in front. They are proud of their welcome and their friendliness towards foreigners. You will always hear them saying that “Africans” are great, no matter whether they are Congolese, Tanzanian or Zambian.

Contrasting this, it was the first place where we experienced so much despair about the general misery and poverty in many areas, and about the often corrupt and unstable political situation. When talking to locals, a lot of them (above all educated ones) just worry about leaving Africa under any circumstances. They want to know what they can do in Europe or in the US (the latter being by far the number one choice due to their openness, while Europe is seen more xenophobic), if they can find at least a simple job, where they should go and where they can live there, which languages they should speak, how they can enter the western world, if they will be welcomed and so on. Nearly no one thinks about improving the local situation at home, instead they desperately asked us to give them contacts and help them starting a new life elsewhere.

All in all, it was a good idea to stay for only a week here. This gave us the opportunity to stick to our budget, to see the Falls and to have some kind of relaxing holidays before finishing our shared world-trip.

111 meters in 4.7 seconds

The time comes nearer that we have to face the sad truth: after almost 8 months, our shared world-trip comes to an end. In Lusaka we entered the bus to our last destination – Livingstone, the town at famous Victoria Falls. The bus was announced to leave at 9:30 with boarding time at 9 o’clock. After our experiences in Tanzania, we expected it to start its journey somewhere between 10:45 and midday. Slowly we walked into the bus at 9:15 just to discover that we were the last passengers and we hardly got time to get on our seats. We departed at 9:20.

In Livingstone we did not lose time to go to the Falls. We spent the whole day there, watching the scenery from the Zambian side. The time between July and September is said to be the best viewing season because during the rain period there is so much spray that you cannot see the falls from 10 meters distance. The drawback is that now the falls are a bit underwhelming. But the whole setting with narrow gorges and mighty Zambezi hurrying along is spectacular and this place is definitely worth a visit. However, the advertisement as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World is completely exaggerated. On our trip we easily saw seven places that are even more stunning – including the rivalling Falls at Iguazú. And that’s the opinion of most visitors here. Continue reading

Living in Two Worlds

Our first impression of Zambia we had already in the train. The rural areas were just as underdeveloped as in Tanzania. At every village we passed, running children accompanied the train, screaming and waving their hands. For them it was the event of the week and they were happy when we waved back. You clearly saw that there was no infrastructure at all and that life has not changed so much in the last several hundred years.

We arrived at Kapiri Mposhi, a town in the Copperbelt. Northern Zambia is rich in copper and cobalt so with its mines, this region is slightly wealthier than the rest of the country. However, its economy and the well-being of the people highly depends on the world copper price. From there, we took a minibus – which was loaded like a normal bus – to the capital Lusaka. For more than 3 hours, we sat cramped on the vehicle and every time we passed the police checkpoints, one of the local passengers had to get out and pass the checkpoint walking, and the driver gave the policemen a bribe so they did not see we were completely overloaded. Regarding Lusaka, we were expecting everything. Moloch, chaos, dirt, poverty, we even were prepared to make our way through the streets with a machete, but not for what was actually to come. Continue reading